A diabetic, a blind man and an amputee walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this – some kind of joke?”
Having a disability is no joke according to IDA Advisory Board Member and Neurohumorist expert, Karyn Buxman, RN, MSN. “But it can be a laughing matter. Pain, suffering, isolation, stress, depression, financial hardships – the problems can seem never ending. And to survive you need all the possible tools in your tool belt that you can find. One tool that is frequently overlooked is humor.”
“Science is affirming what we’ve suspected all along – laughter is good medicine. The benefits for you are so numerous that you are not going to want to wait for humor to happen by chance. You’ll want to be proactive and experience humor by choice. And the good news is, you don’t have to be funny. You just have to see funny,” says Karyn. “My mission is to improve global health and business through laughter and help heal the humor impaired.”
Karyn is a past president of an amazing organization called the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH). AATH believes that therapeutic humor is any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life’s situations. This intervention may enhance health or be used as a complementary treatment of illness to facilitate healing or coping, whether physical, emotional, cognitive, social or spiritual.
The current president of AATH and 2014 IDA Healthy Humor Award Honoree, Jill Knox talks about how she began using humor more purposefully during her teaching career. Jill soon realized that her use of humor motivated and energized her students and, when used at the appropriate time, was also a tool for resolving conflicts. Jill later developed a program for educators that led to her career as a speaker and expert on humor.
The Invisible Disabilities Association has always believed that humor and laughter are critical to living a life that may include pain and illness. A review on goodreads.com of Norman Cousins’ book, Anatomy of an Illness, says the author “shares how we should take charge of our own health. The book started the revolution in patients working with their doctors and using humor to boost their bodies’ capacity for healing. When Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a crippling and irreversible disease, he forged an unusual collaboration with his physician, and together they were able to beat the odds. The doctor’s genius was in helping his patient to use his own powers: laughter, courage and tenacity. The patient’s talent was in mobilizing his body’s own natural resources, proving what an effective healing tool the mind can be. This remarkable story of the triumph of the human spirit is truly inspirational reading.”
Although Matt Iseman, 2014 IDA “But You LOOK Good” Inspiration Award Honoree, comedian and host of American Ninja Warriors, always loved being the center of attention, he started down a very different road. After graduating with honors from Princeton University and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he received his MD, he returned home to the University of Colorado for his residency in Internal Medicine. Then, in a move that shocked patients and parents alike, he quit his job as a doctor and moved out to Hollywood to pursue stand-up comedy.
He jokes in one of his routines, according toEverydayhealth.com, “I was diagnosed with RA [rheumatoid arthritis] Christmas of 2002… I asked for a snowboard.” Matt regularly entertains medical professionals with the skills of a professional comedian and the experience of a medical doctor and patient. He finds humor in an industry that too often forgets the importance of laughter. Matt reminds healthcare professionals that, “while laughter may not cure diseases, it can make them a little less painful.”
The irony is that the pain and illness and suffering which many endure daily is truly not a laughing matter; however, humor can help with healing and coping. IDA’s upcoming 7th annual Gala on October 24th is about recognizing the joy and strength in humor. Not only are there nine amazing honorees, with a couple mentioned previously, but the event headliner is comedian Ross Bennett.
According to Rooftop Comedy, “The mid-70’s were a different era, and West Point was admitting a different kind of cadet when Ross Bennett was sworn in on July 8, 1975. But by 1977, Ross had decided that he wanted to take aim and fire jokes at nightclub audiences. So he undertook a giant career change; he dropped out of West Point, and landed right square in the middle of the comedy explosion that was taking America by storm. For 30 years Ross has led a comedy attack. Armed with an expressive delivery and real life topics. Growing up with a father who was a Marine Colonel (a nice mellow guy!), grade school snow days, disastrous golf games, catastrophic water skiing outings and middle age medical procedures.”
“When one is in pain, it is sometimes hard to believe that humor is available,” Karyn reminds. “Yet it is there, just as the stars are there during the day—we cannot see them when we are blinded by the light that keeps them hidden from us. We trust that they are there and will become evident to us again, when the time is right.”
So remember to laugh, laugh at the absurdity of illness and pain. Laugh when it seems like nothing else could go wrong and then, yes, the other shoe drops. Laugh because humor reminds us of our humanity and that there truly are things we can’t control and well, there is one act that is up to us. Laugh, because it does matter.
October 19th through Oct 25th is Invisible Disabilities Week. Celebrate with laughter. Host an I Love Lucy marathon. Spend some time with friends playing charades. Start a post on Facebook sharing funny stories. Watch It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the extended anniversary edition. Have fun, laugh at yourself and laugh with others. Become an IDA Facebook follower and help us break 100,000!
If you are in Denver, make sure to join us for the capstone of the ID Week on October 24th for our Gala, www.ItsNotALaughingMatter.com. And if you can’t attend the Gala, enjoy a free gift from IDA Ambassador, Pete Ohlin; his song, “Cast Your Cares.” Let’s all learn to laugh and love and envision a world where people living with illness, pain and disability will be Invisible No More!
Copyright 2014 Wayne Connell – This article was first published on Disability.Blog, by Disability.Gov on October 17, 2014.